A Beginners Guide to Reiki

Patients and practitioners reveal the benefits of Reiki, the ancient healing form of touch therapy.

Do you feel sick, tired, stressed out, or just plain off? Are you looking to shake up your self-care routine, or simply want to get in better touch with yourself? If so, you may want to consider booking a Reiki session.

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Reiki table

What is Reiki?

With roots in ancient Japanese culture, Reiki is a kind of spiritual healing primarily used for stress reduction, relaxation, and healing. A Reiki master, through a process known as attunement, opens a person’s energy channels and clears them of obstructions, allowing them to channel the life force energy that is believed to regulate everything from cellular function to the nervous system. After attunement, a practitioner administers Reiki to a recipient by “laying on hands,” a technique whereby the practitioner positions their hands above the ailing person’s body, working to resolve imbalances, insufficiencies, and blockages of life force energy, resulting in better mental and physical health.


Woman having reiki treatment

Does Reiki work?

If the idea of Reiki seems a little far-fetched to you, consider how humans and animals respond to pain—whether their own or another’s—with touch. Touch conveys warmth and healing; we press our hands to a feverish forehead or kiss our kids’ boo-boos to make them better. Reiki and other touch therapies are based on that same idea. Genevieve M., 27, describes the experience as “like lying in a warm, gold cloud that loves you unconditionally.” As a recipient, she appreciates the safe space a Reiki session provides, allowing you to release both physical and psychic burdens.

Others appreciate its after-effects. “From a full-body healing, I have found that the following week is the most profound,” says Elizabeth S., 32, who is also a Reiki master. “I have complete shifts in thinking that end up promoting healthier habits.” Reiki, she reveals, has helped her not only stop smoking but has alleviated the pain from physical ailments, like IBS and ulcers, which were not responding to traditional treatment.

For Gerry V., 28, a patient of Genevieve’s, Reiki helped him not only recover from the trauma of a toxic relationship but has helped him manage his anxiety. “The best way I can describe the whole experience is an emotional unraveling. Before my first session, I felt like my heart was one big knot, and over time (with a lot of patience and meditation), the anxiety has dissipated. I’ve learned that anxiety is not necessarily something that can be eradicated, and accepting that has helped me learn how to respond to it. Reiki really has changed me. I feel lighter, calmer, and happier.”


woman relaxing on sofa

Is Reiki right for you?

The benefits of Reiki are broad and can help you reduce stress, calm anxiety, work through trauma, or aid in recovery from physical illness. Kira W., 61, who’s been practicing Reiki for 12 years, describes it as such: “Reiki significantly amplifies any kind of meditative practice. I would recommend Reiki for anyone that’s feeling out of balance, in need of energy, recuperating from any kind of physical ailment, or needing support, of any kind, for a lifestyle change (breaking habits, changing jobs, moving, etc.).”

“If you’re feeling detached from your relationships, or finding it hard to connect with people, Reiki is a great response,” adds Gerry. “Those disconnects arise because of disconnects internally. Reiki helps shed light on them.” It’s also great for “anyone who simply wants to get centered and take an hour for themselves,” says Genevieve, who emphasizes Reiki’s important role in a self-care regimen.

Reiki sessions are often emotionally intimate, and so practitioners and patients recommend connecting with the person who will be providing your treatment beforehand. Working through stress, trauma, or emotional blockages can leave you feeling vulnerable, so like any kind of therapy, it’s important you feel comfortable with your practitioner.

Though there are no adverse risks associated with Reiki, it’s not to be used as a substitute for medical treatment. “You are more likely to have a smoother, quicker journey back to health if Reiki is combined with your traditional western medicine treatment plan,” explains Genevieve. “Reiki healers complement any doctor or psychotherapist, and are only there to help and ease the healing process.”

For a deeper understanding of Reiki, check out Essential Reiki by Diane Stein. First published in 1995, Essential Reiki has been a useful tool for students, teachers, and anyone curious about the history of this ancient practice.




Illustration Credit: Marie Guillard


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